Bellow I propose different ways to start a tabletop game, some more common, some more surprising and some even criticizable.
I have grouped the different ways to start a game according to my own experience with different games and also the experience of my friend Cristian from El Dado Dorado (The Golden Dice) Association. You can watch the discussion on my YouTube channel.
1 – Random way
Perhaps the most fair way to start a tabletop game is simply to put it to luck. Usually, for this purpose, a die or cards are simply used. Although recently Cristian has experienced a new variant known as “Throwing meeples“.
The throwing meeples consists of throwing a meeple of each player and the one that reaches further is the player that begins.
Something similar happens in Tokaido, a Japanese-themed game where you have to place by luck the meeples for each player.
2 – Thematic way
Another very common way to see who is the first player in many games is simply to resort to the theme.
An example in Room 25, a hidden role play that is based on the movie The Cube, where the participants are inside a macabre reality show into a cube full of rooms with traps. Then the initial player of the game is who has watched a reality show more recently.
Also the children’s games of the Haba publishing house usually have this type of beginning.
For example in Animal upon animal starts the player who holds more stands on one feet imitating a flamingo. And in the Go cuckoo! the first player is the one who has recently eaten an egg. While this way of starting can be fun, it may be unfair.
And within this thematic section, we can find more extravagant things … and also ungy criticizable ways as in Cards against humanity, a game of black humor that chooses as the first player who has shit more recently.
3 – Unfair way
Thought in the previous cases the initial player is determined by an action or event related to the theme, it is still possible that it may be the case that in different games the first player varies. But there is less or none possibility in other games where the initial player is totally defined by the game and can be a fairly unfair way. 2 examples:
There are many games that determine the first player according to their age. There are usually children’s games where the player who starts is the youngest. In this case it is not very fair but it could be considered as an incentive or some form of compensation to the younger child. But in adult games it is somewhat unfair. This is the case of Mexica, which establishes that the oldest player will start the game …. we will not be able to start any other player if you always play with the same people.
In The Dawnfall of Pomeii, the initial player is always the one who sits left to the owner of the game …. so, the owner of the game will never start the game! … a little unfair and incoherent, am I right?
4 – No sense way
And speaking of incoherent ways, we can find some games where it seems that they simply forgot to think about how to determine the first player and then they had to add a no sense rule.
This is the case of Terraforming Mars, a game that I personally love and play often, with very careful rules but to determinate who is the first player it simply tells you that it will be the player who has won the last game ?! …. I honestly think that is something that borders on the absurd for this eurogame with such an elaborate mechanics.
5 – Democratic way
This way of choosing the first player is in which the players have to agree. And it may seem simple but the truth is that I find it quite curious and often gives it a strategic value.
Sometimes it happens in cooperative games like Descent (at least Cristian remembers it in its first edition) and other dungeon crawlers that imitate certain aspects of role-playing games.
As can you see we have found many different and curious ways to determine who starts a game.
In general the rule of who starts the first player is usually quite simple, so I consider that in those cases where it can simply lead to an injustice directly change it by a random method.
But if you know in a different and curious way to start a game, let me know in the comments and I will add it to the list.
Thank you for reading me and until the next discussion.
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